After missing the final four games of Wisconsin’s season with a broken clavicle, Joel Stave had progressed to the point health-wise that there was talk he could possibly start in the Rose Bowl.
As it turns out, that’s all it was — talk.
Following the Badgers’ final practice before leaving for California, interim head coach/athletic director Barry Alvarez indicated in no uncertain terms that senior Curt Phillips will start at quarterback for UW against Stanford New Year’s Day.
“Curt won that championship game. He’s earned the right to start,” the former coach said.
Phillips replaced Stave following the injury and started all four games, including the 70-31 romp over Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game. While the Badgers were just 2-2 in Phillips’ starts, both the losses were in overtime — to unbeaten Ohio State and on the road against Penn State.
In those two losses, Phillips attempted a total of 50 passes. In the two wins? A whopping 15 total.
Phillips is actually the third quarterback to start for the Badgers this season. After transferring to UW from Maryland in the offseason, Danny O’Brien started the first three games before getting yanked in favor of Stave due to “performance issues.”
Leonard Fournette has spent most of October resting up a litany of injuries that has kept him out of the lineup.
Based on the way he looked Saturday night in helping LSU tie things up 21-all against Ole Miss at halftime, it appears the tailback is finally healthy.
Fournette needed just six carries to cruise over the century mark on the ground and finished the half with 171 yards rushing and two scores — the first on a 59 yarder in which he ran over the Rebels defense, and the latter one a 76 yarder in which he raced away from nearly everybody on the field.
Quarterback Danny Etling didn’t need to do much with big No. 7 toting the rock so well but did manage to pass for 120 yards and a long 40 yard touchdown pass to D.J. Chark.
The Tigers defense also stepped up in slowing the Rebels normally potent offense. Chad Kelly threw one ill-advised interception and nearly tossed a few more as the Ole Miss offense had problems finding much consistency. The team was bailed out by their defense recovering a fumble just before the end of the second quarter that set up their final score to close the gap otherwise Hugh Freeze would have gone into the locker room with a deficit.
LSU has certainly been rejuvenated under the tenure of interim head coach Ed Orgeron and that continued in the first half of their SEC West showdown with his old team. The only question left might be what Fournette can do for an encore after racking up some impressive numbers in the first half against Ole Miss.
Houston’s rather significant loss could prove to be a sizable gain for a couple of fellow Group of Five programs.
Entering Saturday’s game against SMU ranked 13th in the country, the Cougars inexplicably fell behind 21-0 to a Mustangs team that came in at 2-4. Instead of mounting a comeback and righting what’s suddenly become a listing season, the Cougars could get no closer than 14 points (twice) the rest of the way in falling 38-16.
The loss is UH’s second in its last three games, a stumble that came after winning its first five games of the season and moving to as high as sixth in the Associated Press rankings. While Houston hasn’t seen its New Year’s Six bid completely go up in smoke, it’s seen it severely damaged.
Ready to pick up the G5 pieces are Boise State and Western Michigan.
Both of those Broncos exited Week 8 undefeated, the MAC version at 8-0 and the MWC’s 7-0. Boise, which was No. 14 following Week 7, will most certainly leapfrog Houston, while WMU, ranked 20th, should do so as well.
One other G5 team is currently ranked: No. 24 Navy, whose 4-1 record includes a win over Houston that doesn’t look quite as good as it did a couple of weeks ago. Another of that group received more than one vote in the most recent poll, although those votes will likely evaporate Sunday as USF lost to Temple Friday night.
The first set of rankings that actually matter, the College Football Playoffs, will be released Tuesday, Nov. 1.
Somewhere Mike Riley is smiling and nodding knowingly.
The current Nebraska head coach had somewhat of a tradition while at Oregon State in which he would take his football team to In-N-Out Burger following a particularly big win. Picking up that burger mantle is Mike MacIntyre, who rewarded his Colorado team with a trip to the famous fast-food joint following their physical, grinding road win over Stanford earlier in the day.
The 10-5 win was deserving of such a reward on a couple of levels.
First, it moved the Buffaloes to 6-2, pushing the football program to bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007. Most importantly, however, it allowed CU to keep pace with Utah in the Pac-12 South, with both the Buffs and Utes sitting at 4-1 with four conference games remaining.
One-fourth of that remaining quartet? A clash between in the regular-season finale between those two squads — in Boulder — that’s looking more and more like it will determine the division’s representative in the conference championship game.
It’s been 16 years since Washington has won a conference title but the Huskies took another step toward their goal of ending that streak on Saturday as they blasted Oregon State in a game that wasn’t even as close as the 41-17 final score indicated.
While most of the college football world was undoubtedly focused away from the Pacific Northwest, quarterback Jake Browning did not hamper his budding Heisman Trophy campaign by throwing for 291 yards and three touchdowns in just over three quarters worth of work (he also added a rushing score). Fellow sophomore Myles Gaskin didn’t need long to top the century mark on the ground, finishing with 128 yards and a touchdown before the fourth quarter began.
Receivers John Ross and Dante Pettis both had big games as well, with each going over 100 receiving yards and recording catches of over 40 yards. Pettis also found the end zone twice.
The Huskies defense also stepped up to turn in another nice outing, recording four sacks and two interceptions while holding the Beavers to just 4-of-13 on third down. It was a tough task for Oregon State quarterback Marcus McMaryion (148 yards in the air) as the team’s third-stringer was making his first start of the year on the road in a difficult environment and facing one of the best defenses west of the Mississippi.
The win keeps Washington undefeated on the year and sets up a big showdown in Salt Lake City against fellow top 25 team Utah, which moved to 7-1 on the season with a nice win over UCLA earlier in the day. While it might be quite unexpected on both sides, it’s probably not a stretch to think that contest is the Pac-12 game of the year and a potential league title game preview given how both sides looked this weekend.